Feeding your dog, choosing a good dog food

A Good Dog Food

Despite what the label may claim, many of the dog foods available are not a good source of nutrition for your dog and some are actually harmful. The dog owner assumes that since the dog food label reads: ‘complete and balanced’, ‘premium’, ‘Healthy’, or ‘high protein’ that their dog will be healthy and well fed. This is not necessarily the case. Some ingredients are nearly indigestible by dogs, so if the dog is unable to break the food down into amino acids and then absorb those amino acids, the diet is of no value. You must look at the ingredients. Egg whites, chicken, beef, and lamb are at the top of the list of good ingredients. Wheat and corn are at the bottom. Preservative chemicals such as Ethoxyquin and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) have questionable reputations and may be dangerous to your dog’s health.

Hint: Dietary deficiencies may take months to develop, while feeding a high quality diet will give you visual improvement in about three weeks.

Choosing a good dog food starts with the list of ingredients. The ingredient list is regulated by the government and must be listed according to weight in descending order. In other words, the main ingredient is listed first, the second most plentiful ingredient next, and so on. The first three or four ingredients are the most important. If corn, rice, wheat, and soybean meal are listed as the first few ingredients, then the food is vegetable based. If beef, lamb, fish or poultry is listed as the main ingredients, then the food is meat based.

In general, meat-based foods will be healthier for dogs than vegetable-based foods. The exception to this is a well balanced vegetarian diet which with time and effort can be healthy for dogs.

Be aware of ‘ingredient splitting’. If the list of ingredients contains several of a family of ingredients such as ground corn, yellow corn meal, corn gluten, and corn gluten meal separately, it moves ‘corn’ further down on the ingredient list. Corn may be the main ingredient if added together, but to the consumer it will appear that there is less corn in the dog food.

Often, low quality dog foods will use ‘ingredient splitting’. They will list a meat ingredient first; this will be followed by several similar materials listed as separate ingredients. For example, lamb may be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour and ground wheat. You may think that the lamb is the predominant ingredient, but the wheat products added together may outweigh the lamb.

Dogs need about 20-25% protein. Protein is the most expensive ingredient in dog food as well as the most important nutrient in your dog’s diet. The source of the protein determines its quality. There are 22 amino acids that make up proteins and 10 are critical in dog nutrition. Pick dog food with at least 2 sources of protein in the first 5 ingredients listed. Low-quality ingredients are not digested well and can produce loose stool. Generally, the better quality protein sources have higher digestibility.

Carbohydrates should comprise about 40-45% of your dog’s food and include rice, potatoes, pumpkin, corn, barley and pasta. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that aids in nutrient absorption, bowel regulation, and controlling caloric intake by providing satiety. High fiber food can sometimes help a dog that has a gas problem.

Fats should comprise 15-20% of food. Fats are most vital to dogs with high-energy requirements as they provide twice the energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein. Usable fats include chicken fat, sunflower/canola oil, fish oil, and lactose-free dairy. Fats are also important as they contain essential fatty acids which contribute to a healthy skin and coat. A lack of fats in a dog’s diet can lead to a rough coarse coat, dandruff, and flaky, dry skin. Fats also make the food taste better to the dog.

HINT: Some dogs are picky. My dog Buffy would leave the little stick shapes of her Kibbles & Bits every time she ate. She would devour the rest.

Avoid artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners such as corn syrup, sucrose, and ammoniated glycyrrhizin.